Pick up one of your old family black and white photographs. Tell me, what do you see?
Being a part of a generation where we are fortunate enough to be able to take an unlimited amount of photos can be extremely beneficial. We don’t need to worry about taking a terrible picture because we can just delete it and take hundreds more in search of perfection. We can then trawl through the hundreds of photographs of the same scene and edit it at the swipe of a screen to get the perfect lighting, colour overlays and softness. We can easily delete the things in the picture that we don’t want in there. We can even add in things that we do want in it. Then, after a bit of gentle, or extreme, editing, we can post it on Instagram or Facebook and share it with the entire online world. We can pick our best shot to use as a profile picture and change it as many times as we like. We can ultimately pick our best shot (probably enhanced slightly) to represent us online. We can even add hash tags to aim it at the right audience. I am incredibly guilty of all of the above. I’m not sure if I should be ashamed of this or not. But I do it. I keep going with my camera, or phone, until I have something I’m happy with. I will upload it to Facebook and Instagram, after editing it slightly of course, and add numerous hashtags. I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing this. Why would anyone want to put pictures out there that they aren’t happy with. Oh, I don’t Photoshop my pictures though. I can honestly say I have never edited them to make me look thinner or remove blemishes. I only, probably like most people, alter the lighting, contrast, add a colour filter, maybe a bit of softness, perhaps change the saturation and warmth levels. Ah, okay, that’s a fair bit of editing. But everyone does it right?
What is essentially a bit of harmless editing on a personal level really doesn’t take away the content of the photograph. I’m referring to amateur editing here, not the professional editing completed by experts who know what they are doing for magazines and websites. I just mean those little edits assisted by Instagram or apps on our phones. Those little simple touches do not take away what you can see in the picture. I look at this picture of me and I remember how happy I was at that exact moment. Yea, I have adjusted the lighting and contrast to enhance the picture, but it is still the same image captured and the same moment. I will still always look at that picture and remember that meal out with my Mum, Sister and Niece, and how happy it made me feel.
Take a look at your old black and white picture now. Really look at it. Remember that the person taking it was capturing a moment in time. They weren’t trying to get the perfect picture. They weren’t looking for perfection or something they could enhance. It was a moment captured “forever”.
This picture is of my Great Grandmother, aged forty. She was an absolutely wonderful woman who I miss dearly every single day. Obviously I was not born when this photograph was taken, but for me it encapsulates everything that I later discovered about her. She was extremely kind to me. She had many stories about the war that she never shared with us. Well, she once mentioned something about American Soldiers in a very rare moment that she talked about the war, but it wasn’t the words I remembered. It was the sparkle in her eyes. I was young, probably seven or eight, so the words were of no interest to me back then. However, I will never forget how her face came alive. Her eyes, right at that moment, told a story that her voice never would. This photograph does that too. I don’t know if it is her dog or not but I can feel so much love in this picture. She always dressed immaculately, even when she was in her nineties but you see, in this picture, she doesn’t care about getting dog fur or mucky paws on her clothes. She never cared about the insignificant things. The things that some people are so fussy about. She only cared about the things that mattered. Like giving us the best roast dinner on a Sunday. Which she always did by the way. Three kinds of potato (mashed, roasted and boiled), yorkshire puddings to die for, and always a home made pudding. It is all these things that I see in this photograph. The young woman who had no idea at the time of this photograph, that she would be the apple of her Great Granddaughters eye.
So, never dismiss the old black and white photographs hanging on your wall or in your albums. Never just give them a fleeting glance now and again. Take a long look at them. A really long look. Take it out of the frame or the album and hold it between your fingers. You are seeing exactly what the photographer saw at exactly that moment in time. You are seeing exactly the view that they had. Now think, why did they press the button?